Teaching in Hualien
About how many students attended the school that you teach at?
The number of students depends on the size of the school. Some are very large with over 600 students and others are smaller with fewer than 40. The average sits near the middle of these two extremes.
How many students do you teach?
The number of students that we teach depends on the size of the school. In Hualien, there are schools of all different sizes so it depends where you end up being placed. At my school (Alex), I teach 2 classes in each grade from third to sixth. With about 20-25 students per class, that comes out to about 160-200 students.
At my school (Isabelle), I also teach 3rd-6th graders, two classes per grade. There are about 15-20 students, so a little bit less than 160 students.
How large are your classes?
The size of classes depends on the size of the school. In Hualien, there are schools of all different sizes so it depends where you end up being placed. At my school (Alex), the smallest class is 18 students and the largest class is 28, with the average near 24-25 students. Once each week, we travel to a remote school to run English camp with 1-2 other Hualien ETAs. In my experience (Alex), these class sizes vary significantly; at one English camp school, there are only 8 students on some weeks.
How are you placed into schools?
We visit schools during the orientation period in August and afterwards are allowed to rank our preferences. The program then takes our preferences into account and places you into schools accordingly.
Are you teaching in Hualien City, or just within the county?
In 2017-2018, all of our schools were within Hualien City. However, we teach at English Camps in Hualien County once a week. These schools are spread out throughout the county in more rural areas and we typically visit them by train or bus.
What are English Camps?
English Camps are once a week opportunities for ETAs to interact with more rural schools in Hualien County. We split into 3 groups of 3 which visited two schools once a week on alternating weeks. These schools are typically smaller, have fewer resources, and allow you to have more freedom when it comes to independent teaching and designing the curriculum. While English camp is challenging in some ways, in my opinion (Alex), this arrangement is a great way to divide the week and provides a breather from our main school on Wednesday.
What are your responsibilities at the school?
At school, we are required to teach 14 classes a week. Beyond that, our responsibilities varied based on what we were interested in and what we wanted to take on. Some of us have meetings every week with the staff, others coach various sports teams and after school activities.
I (Alex) run an extracurricular class alongside a co-teacher for 2 of my 14 hours, during which we “travel” to a different country and learn about its customs and history using basic English. Prep for this activity is a little atypical (e.g. making country-specific bookmarks, presentations, researching a wide variety of content that students will enjoy), and is simply the result of my school’s specific arrangement.
As for me (Isabelle), I teach about 16 classes (though, as was mentioned above, we are only required to teach 14 classes). I also work with my most advanced students (from 8:00 to 8:40 every morning) and remedial students (from 4:10 to 4:50 on Mondays and Thursday). I also run English Club with my LET on Thursdays (English club only happens for one month during the semester). During the months I am not running English Club, I help the school’s soccer club. I’m pretty busy during the day, but I like the workload and being with my students.
Do you have your own class or do you co-teach with others?
The ETAs in Hualien all co-teach. How this manifests itself in the classroom is dependent on the schools and LETs that you end up working with. Sometimes you teach together other times you have half the class to run an activity and your LET has the other half.
For about 6 of my (Alex) 14 sessions each week, I spend a majority of the class working with smaller groups of 8-10 students to focus on conversational skills and apply material that has already been introduced. It gives students more direct speaking practice, it’s easier to manage, and it has helped me get to know on a more individual level.
Do you teach the curriculum that is being used at the school or do you have the flexibility to design your own curriculum?
When it comes to curriculum, the county has a set of standards and books that each school needs to teach from. However, within that set curriculum, you are given a degree of freedom to create your own lessons and activities to teach the materials and are free to bring in a few additional topics if there is enough time in the calendar.
To echo a persistent theme in the co-teaching environment, your room to maneuver will depend largely on how amenable your co-teacher is to new ideas. The relationship with LET and your LET’s relationship with administration will both influence how much scope you have to introduce new ideas and run with them.
How much Chinese do you need to know going into your first few weeks in the classroom?
In terms of Chinese ability, the ETAs in Hualien ranged from several years of Chinese experience to none at all. While knowing Chinese is not required, it is helpful to have and we encourage you to take time to improve your Chinese in Hualien through classes or independent study.